For many reasons, it can take us years, decades before we can allow ourselves embrace fun and silliness the way we once did when we were children. And when we finally make it back, we discover that we are different, and it is different; and yet it welcomes us, embraces us as powerfully, as naturally, as meaningfully as it did when we last understood its place in our lives – more meaningfully, because we are adults, and we must, not because, but in spite of it all, choose to have fun, to be silly. This mind-altering, spirt-affirming discovery has been the focus of my play/work for more than 40 years.
The following letter from Lynn Lenihan <lynn664(at)yahoo.com> reminded me why:
Thanks for reading my email. As I’m sure that you noticed from my first note that I tend to babble so I won’t share everything I’m thinking with you all in one email. Would love to hear your thoughts on some things as well.
As I said, I picked up a hula hoop a short while back and my world changed. I actually tried it on a dare at a festival. It was so relaxing that I didn’t care if I looked silly. Later, I came upon a woman who was hoop dancing (at the same festival) and I was amazed..couldn’t keep my eyes off her. I opted not to buy a hoop at that time but later that night I started to think about it. I saw a video of a woman who sold hoops nearby and I called her to ask her some questions. (Like how old the people doing it are, what type of hoop to get, how big, did she teach, how could I learn etc). The next thing you know, I’m buying my first hoop lol. I am 49, generally quite reserved and yet the hoop has changed me in so many ways..and it still is. I found myself hooping in front of people…many others were hooping but there were also people watching. Went to a weekend hoop camp a couple of months after that. This year, I decided to take the chance and step out by myself and do it all alone with people around. Was scary but freeing at the same time. I recently moved here so I really don’t know that many people in the area yet. My hope was someone would be curious enough to stop and talk to me so that I could offer them a try too. A few things that I’ve learned is that there is always time to have fun, having fun is a natural way to exercise and feel healthy, I rarely feel too hot or too cold when I’m playing regardless of the temperature, if people who see me playing think that I’m silly I don’t worry so much about what they are thinking, rather I tend to feel a bit of a sadness (not sure if that one makes sense lol), I can learn anything if I put my mind to it, making mistakes is okay as it is how a person learns. Yes, the hoop has taught me that my need to be a perfectionist isn’t as important as enjoying myself…play is the only thing that brought me to that conclusion LOL. There also is no question that having fun makes a person feel younger…play can actually wipe out the “I’m too old..for anything” attitude. My first time hula hooping around others, I had a young girl in her early 20′s on one side of me and an 82 year old woman right next to me as well. Age means nothing when it comes to playing and having fun.
Throughout the last year or so I was thinking of perhaps going a step further and teaching people how to hoop but two things have stopped me from starting a class. One is that I’m a bit nervous about standing up in front of a group and teaching strangers in a classroom setting and my other issue is the idea of charging people for something that I think is so much fun and can change their life. I don’t want to turn sheer joy into a money making activity. I simply want to share with others.
I have shown a few people, family members and friends, how to hoop but I realized quickly that if someone didn’t want to learn then the hoop would just immediately fall and they would not try again. It was easy to tell those who were just humoring me by giving it a try from those that actually wanted to try on their own. Most kids never drop a hula hoop because they don’t care if someone sees them doing it. Anyway, from those experiences I learned not to try to get someone to do something but rather try to find a way to get them to want to try it. I hope that last sentence makes sense to you. This led me to thinking about why adults don’t play. Why some people will smile and think that the idea of play is great but when confronted with the idea of actually doing it, they tend to shy away. I’ve asked older people and people who are in their 20′s and the only answer that I seem to get consistently is that either they don’t have time or they think that they would look silly…I do fully understand the reasoning behind this but I also know how important it is to brush that aside. I also know that saying that doesn’t make the process any easier for most people. I’m just not sure how to explain that to others…or even where to find others who might actually give it a try lol. I’ve thought back on my own childhood and all the things that I used to do to have fun. I never stopped being playful with those close to me and they would definitely call me silly, the things I have experienced since I found the hoop have gone way beyond this for me. Perhaps it is something beyond the confines of my own house with those who are closest to me? (Thinking as I write to you lol).
Recently, I started to think even more about the whole concept of playing in general. What is play? How would I define it? Would my definition be the same as someone else’s (probably not lol)? Are there rules or not when it comes to playing? Competition? Is there a difference between fun and play? How can I open people up to the idea that being silly is okay? To understand that childish and childlike are not the same thing? Having fun is important and will actually make them even better in all of their other activities? That play for the sheer joy of playing will open doors that they never knew were there? Why are some people afraid to just play for fun but they don’t have any issue about going to a gym or maybe even jogging outside. I’m a very curious person and all this thinking has led me to where I am today. That is trying to figure out how I can teach the world to play…just for fun.
While hula hooping is what started me thinking, I realize that that activity isn’t for everyone. Some people simply may not be interested but I have a feeling that most everyone out there remembers when they were younger and that those people view those days as carefree and worry-free. I also believe (although I could be wrong) that most people would love to feel those feelings again they just don’t think it is possible or don’t see a way that they can. My idea of teaching people to hula hoop changed into something bigger just getting people out there to play and enjoy life.
Bernie, I hope you made it to the bottom of this email lol. I wrote a lot..especially to someone that I don’t even know and you are actually the very first person that I have written to who has any interest in the idea of play, seems to recognize how good it is to have fun, and has taken action to share that with others.